We are all stretching our paychecks (if we still get one) as much as possible these days. We are also very concerned about all possible health hazards and living a greener life. Unfortunately, what often accompanies supposedly “greener” and better products are higher prices. Walk down any aisle in any store, and this is immediately apparent. I recently read numerous articles on the green gains that are occurring in virtually every industry.
I also read erroneous articles that referred to soap nuts as an expensive alternative to green laundry detergent. Nothing could be THAT far from the truth. I got more than one apology (of some sort) from writers who just didn’t do their research very well. Any conclusion of a study that begins with faulty premises and inadequate testing techniques will result in incorrect data. One big problem with soap nuts is that there are big data gaps and some poor quality information floating around. One writer claimed that the cost of using soap nuts was around 50 cents per load. That was complete nonsense. I quickly straightened it up. If used correctly, soap nuts can be one of the MOST affordable ways to do laundry! It is VERY easy to calculate. You just need the correct data to calculate.
NOTE: It is important to realize that it is prohibitive to purchase soap nut samples or just a few ounces. The purpose of the “samplers” is just to TEST them. Period. If you like the way they work, you will surely buy them in much larger quantities to reduce their cost per ounce and associated cost per load. Right?
Let’s compare the cost of using soap nuts to using many commercial detergents that we see all the time. Let’s run through the numbers: (You will no doubt notice that I avoid metrics and mean USD. I think the different methods of weights and measures, as well as different currencies, have contributed to some confusion. I am a US citizen. I am writing largely so that the US audience will easily understand it. I sincerely apologize to all who are not used to my use of pesos and common currency in the US.)
You can buy about two pounds (32 ounces) of good soap nuts for about $ 30. That would be a very common amount that a knowledgeable soap nut user would buy. Used in a traditional way, it will use approx. half an ounce in a wash bag and that will average about 5 loads. That yields approx. 320 charges for the $ 30 spent. Personally, I can usually get a lot more charges than that, but that’s due to a few tricks I use to lengthen its life and maximize saponin extraction. BUT, to be conservative, let’s go with only FOUR loads per half ounce.
One note worth mentioning: I’ve seen sellers claim loads of loads that seem to be all over the place. I’ve also heard from people claiming to use half the amount I suggest using. I can’t explain that. Just take into account the many, many variables in the way people wash their clothes, plus the variables in the quality and types of soap nuts, and leave it at that. My approach is very “intermediate”. I am dealing with norms, not extremes, so this is significant for the vast majority of scenarios.
You can take THIS to the bank: When using good quality soap nuts (the mukorossi variety is very good), half an ounce (usually five or six whole soap nuts or the equivalent in chunks) that are traditionally used (in a wash bag which is to put directly with your clothes) it will be reusable for four to six loads, easily.
So at just FOUR loads per half ounce, that would give us only 256 (not 320) 32-ounce loads. $ 30 divided by 256 equals $ 0.127 per load. And we are talking about average size, standard loads, not high efficiency loads that will extend the number of uses and therefore further reduce the cost per load.
Now let’s make some “cost per load” comparisons of soap nuts to the well-known “natural” detergents and other types of detergents in the typical sizes that are available. Please note that all prices are from reputable sellers and are typical prices that are easily found. Again, all soap nut prices per load are based on standard loads, not HE loads. I am trying my best to be very conservative and realistic in all my calculations and estimates.
The following are common prices for soap nuts in several common sizes (I got them off the internet from a trusted supplier): Note: I am even including common prices for smaller size bags (at higher costs per ounce, and STILL using only FOUR loads per half-ounce bag of laundry.) – One 64-ounce bag of soap nuts: $ 57.95 for 512 loads ($ 0.113 per load) – One 32-ounce bag of soap nuts: $ 29.95 for 256 loads ($ 0.117 per load)) – One 16-ounce bag of soap nuts: $ 19.95 for 128 loads ($ 0.155 per load) – One 8-ounce bag of soap nuts: $ 12.75 for 64 loads ($ 0.199 per load)
The following are various commercial detergents in typical sizes and prices. Numbers of charges are per manufacturer’s instructions.
– Seventh Generation 2x Ultra Free Clear Natural Laundry Detergent: $ 11.99 for 50 loads. ($ 0.239 per load)
– All’s Small and Mighty 3x Concentrate for HE washers: $ 8.49 for 32 loads. ($ 0.265 per load)
– ECOS Laundry Detergent, Ultra Concentrated with Soy Fabric Softener: $ 9.49 for 26 loads ($ 0.367 per load)
– Tide 2x Concentrated Laundry Detergent: $ 14.99 for 32 loads ($ 0.468 per load) This blew me away!
– Dreft 2x Concentrated Baby Laundry Detergent: $ 31.99 for 110 loads ($ 0.290 per load)
– Babyganics 3x Concentrated Laundry Detergent: $ 13.49 for 33 loads ($ 0.408 per load)
– Method 3x Concentrated Baby Laundry Detergent: $ 10.99 for 32 loads ($ 0.343 per load)
– Ms. Meyer’s Lavender Laundry Detergent: $ 13.49 for 32 loads ($ 0.421 per load)
Very quickly it becomes apparent that soap nuts are VERY inexpensive compared to most detergents. (Note that I also picked a good random cross-sample from very common brands to some more esoteric ones.) Used correctly, soap nuts can significantly reduce our laundry costs. PLUS, this doesn’t even take into account that you need virtually no fabric softeners or dryer sheets when using soap nuts.
It is also noteworthy that all of these products that are compared to soap nuts are around (more or less) the same 32 ounce weight range that I mentioned earlier and which is popular with soap nut users. Most stores (aside from warehouse type stores) don’t seem to have much in sizes larger than that. I can only assume that most retailers have determined that suitable size, weight, and pricing for detergents in this weight range are the most common sellers. It’s the difference in the number of loads per ounce between soap nuts and commercial detergents that is absolutely staggering.
Regardless, the gist of this article comes down to the COST PER LOAD of using soap nuts compared to commercial detergents. Soap nuts are NOT expensive. They’re a much more affordable means of doing laundry, and it certainly doesn’t get any more eco-friendly. As shown above, even a very small bag of soap nuts (8 ounces for $ 12.75) costs a lot less per load than any of these commercial brands, and again that’s VERY conservative in all respects. They’re less than half the cost per load compared to one of Tide’s flagship detergents.
I gave a single mother, a good friend of mine with three children, a bag of soap nuts for the holidays. She has been working hard to make ends meet. Since then, he has raved about how wonderfully they worked, how his clothes never smelled so clean and soft, how his washing machine no longer smelled of mold and mildew. He had a hard time describing the smell, because there is no smell. How do you just describe the pure, clean scent? Think about it.
He didn’t stop with the dirty clothes. She hasn’t stopped experimenting, and I last heard that the liquid she made cleaned her coffee pot better than even CLR. (Yuck. I’m sure she would have cleaned the CLR really well. She’s a smart woman.) Unbelievable. He tells me that his coffee maker works and looks brand new again.
Soap nuts aren’t just rising in consumer awareness when GREEN is “in”. It is growing in awareness at a time when we can all take advantage of keeping a little more green in our pockets. The green movement will only continue to grow. Both business and government have recognized the need for change (for different reasons, of course). Our children WILL LIVE in a much greener, safer and more efficient world than we have known and grew up in. No time could be better than now to discover all the wonders that soap nuts have to offer. Better laundry products are just the beginning.